By Kristen Gross
BC Bike Race Day 2 Vitals:
The BC Bike Race’s time in Powell River is the lengthiest and the loveliest. The gorgeous views and campsite on the beach are just one part of the picture. Add in the welcoming spirit of the community and the growing familiarity of racers and crew as the race begins to gel, and you start to feel the magic of the event. As racers disembarked the ferry, drummers and pipers sounded their support. A parade of us made our way to tent city and the “wows” wafted down the line as the next two nights’ accommodations came into view.
Tents at BC Bike Race are a big part of the experience. The same crew of volunteers travels with the race to pitch and pack racers’ homes for the week. They’re led by Curtis “Pup” Sabot. “I’m ‘Pup’ for ‘Pup Tent’ because I’m the little guy,” he joked. “But a lot of my crew calls me ‘Dad.’”
A high school teacher in “real life,” Pup is easily recognizable in his red volly shirt and signature bandana. He is a jack-of-all-trades and easily connects with the entire BC Bike Race community. It’s clear he’s a well-loved leader because as soon as he stays in one place for more than a few minutes, his crew members and friends slowly pull up chairs, and jump into the conversation. His personality is magnetic. Some of his volunteers are as young as 15. Most return year after year to be part of the Tent Crew. “It’s all about being a family, we hang out together, we talk together, we chill together,” said Pup. “It’s a family and I look forward to picking up right where we left off every year.”
Although they have one of the hardest jobs in the BCBR, Pup keeps it fun by taking care of the gang that takes care of the racers. “We rented paddleboards today,” he said. “We try and take them out each day to show them something, and I happen to be a paddleboard instructor, too.”
Part of what’s kept Pup coming back for eight years are the racers. “There’s always a racer or two that connects with the tent crew,” he said. “They hang with us, and that makes it special for us.” He tells me a story of one guy he met who, on top of having a bad day on the course, had also learned his daughter had taken her first steps, and he wasn’t there to see it. “I saw he was not having a good one and I said, ‘Bud, do you need a hug?’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Oh hell yeah.’ He had a rough day and he just needed someone,” he said. “I offered him a beer, and the next day he was back again for a sit and a chat–it’s like that every year.”
After spending the night in Pup’s tent city, Stage Two began and racers were off to tackle the rooty singletracks lovingly shaped by largely by The Chain Gang of the Powell River Cycling Association. The temperature was much more civilized than the day before, and the heavy tree cover helped keep things even cooler. As a result, a lot of shake ups went down in the GC as those who hadn’t handled the heat as well the day prior found their legs and made up some position.
“I had a big crash today,” said Alex Deibold, Olympic bronze medalist in boardercross at Sochi, here as an ambassador for race sponsor Lululemon. “I’m fine, but Geoff Gulevich and I were just cruising, kind of suffering though all the uphill and when we finally got to the feature trail we were so pumped, yelling at each other and having a good time–I looked down for a second and clipped a bar on a small tree then went over the bars into the bush.” Shortly after that, still in the fog of crash recovery combined with the distraction of a chat with a fellow rider, Deibold (along with about 12 others) found they had gone off course, adding an additional 7km to the day’s total. “I was in a dark place after that,” he said. “But then I had almost 25 minutes on the trail by myself to clear my head and get back in the zone. I was definitely better with my nutrition today as well.”
Deibold, who is based in Colorado, uses mountain biking as cross training for snowboarding, and although he still considers himself new to the sport, he is becoming a worthy opponent on the enduro circuit while he’s at it. In both mountain biking and snowboarding, the course is coming at you fast, so being able to practice his high mental processing speed all year long means each sport helps him keep his skills sharp for the other.
“Coming to the BC Bike Race, I knew I would be pretty far outside my comfort zone,” said Deibold. “My whole goal is to come up here, finish and have a good time but as soon as the clock starts ticking I find myself getting really competitive–I’m definitely pushing harder than I thought I would, so today I tried to take a moment to just enjoy it.”
Deibold has come to rely on his mental preparedness in both sports. “When I move over to bike racing I try to apply some of the same ideas that work for me in snowboarding, such as only worrying about the things I can control,” said Deibold. “I can go out and just have the best day on my bike, but someone can still be faster than me. But if I worry about the things that I can control–like my nutrition, and making sure that I’m breathing and making sure that I’m keeping my vision down the trail–that will help me achieve success.”
Being new to the mountain biking scene has also helped, says Deibold. “It’s refreshing,” he said. “I still find myself getting really anxious before the race–yesterday I was late, so I got rushed and it sort of threw me under the bus. But today I was way too early, so I was just sitting around, ready, and sort of wasting energy because I was excited. The reason I enjoy racing bikes right now is because it makes me feel like a beginner all over again.”
Day Three begins after a short ferry ride to Sechelt at 11:00 a.m. Close to 100 lucky racers will travel by floatplane, guests of Harbor Air, thanks to a random draw. Racers will face the longest mileage of the week, at 59km, paired with a stiff 1,597m in elevation.